My first few days in Spain have been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. First with the trouble I had actually getting to Sevilla (missed flights, 8 hours waiting in an airport, after spending the last 10 hours on an airplane), and then dealing with a new home, a new city, and basically new everything.
I’m going to start off saying I hate planes. I hate airports. I hate telling my cat goodbye for the next four months. So I don’t think it was good to start my study abroad experience by starting it in a plane. The first plane, a short one to Charlotte, SC, was bumpy and I think I glanced at my barf bag in front of me every minute. We landed safely, and one of the stewardesses started to sing “God Bless America.” I don’t know if she sang it because she liked to after every flight she survived, or because it was Labor Day. She didn’t really say, she just sang it out. After that, it was a quick trip to another side of the airport to get to my international flight. I absolutely dreaded this one: eight hours on a plane is bad enough, but with severe motion sickness, it’s like getting stuck on the tilt-a-whirl. I can stave off the sickness with meds (thank you Dramamine!), but then I’m asleep for the entire flight. I envy those people who can ride planes all the time, no problem. If it were up to me, I’d drive everywhere. Or take a train. Trains are actually fun. Darn you Atlantic Ocean!
The flight is uneventful, no incidents (just in case any of my readers cared about my upset stomach), and we land at the Barcelona airport 30 minutes late. I have less than an hour to go through customs, check in to get my ticket, and then race through security. While standing in line to get my ticket, I looked down at the time the airplane was supposed to leave. 10:25. I asked the guy next to me what time it was.
“10:23,” he replied.
“Expletives!” I cried out, and ran to the fast lane where all the late people go. The man that stood there gave me an odd look, probably because my desperation was showing. I showed him my flight time on my itinerary, and he just says, “Lady, that flight is gone.”
Cue Luke Skywalker’s cry of despair.
So I ran around the airport, hoping to find someone who could help out. I was too scared to speak in Spanish because I was worried about being understood and understanding the people helping me out. Luckily it got all sorted out. The only problem was I needed to stay put in the airport for the next 8 hours of my life. I slept, mostly. Clinging to my bags and hoping nobody would bother me or try to steal my ten pounds of snacks (I brought waaay too many snacks).
Once on the plane, it was a quick trip to Sevilla, and an even quicker trip through baggage. Luckily mine was held in the VIP spot called “Lost and Found.” There were even these velvety bars to keep all the lame people away. The CIEE program paid for a taxi to drive me to my home, but the taxi driver had no idea what street I was on. He kept pulling in next to other taxi drivers to ask. Once while both were driving on a really busy street. And even after asking five times, he pulls up to the right street, but tells me I have to walk a few blocks down because “No puedo ir en este calle.” (“I can’t go here!” He says, pointing at a one way street). So with my five million pounds of VIP baggage, I trek down to my home stay, where my host mom is waiting for me. It was nice to finally get there. At that point, nothing else mattered to me except to find my bed and sleep.
Even after the airport adventures, these first few days have been absolutely overwhelming. I have my moments where I am confident and feel like I can take on the world, and then there are times where I just want to curl up and cry. I think either response is acceptable, and I have heard similar responses from other students in my group. I know I will get settled, and eventually this will become my new normal, but I also know it will take some time to get used to everything around me. I think the biggest—and most obvious—issue so far is the language barrier. Although, “language barrier” is not strong enough of a word for what I am experiencing. More like a language Great Wall of China covered in adamantium with spikes sticking out of the sides. I have heard this about Spain Spanish, that it is really fast (and kind of loud), but I was not expecting this kind of incompetence on my part. I think my words of the week are “Sí,” “Estoy bien,” and “Vale.” I am just waiting for my señora (host mom) to try and shake the words out of me (probably not, she’s super sweet). I want to shake the words out of me. I am shy with my Spanish—as I’m sure everybody who has ever learned a different language is—so this trip is definitely challenging me, nay, forcing me to overcome my tenacity towards this language that I absolutely positively suck at. The positive part, though, is that there is nowhere to go but forward at this point. There are small, beautiful moments, even in these first couple days, that give me more and more incentive to advance in this beautiful language. I am starting to understand my señora just a little bit. I can order a café or té, and since the barista understands me and doesn’t give me weird looks, I must not be speaking alien. The only way to get over my own fear of both speaking and not being able to speak, is to just… speak. Talk. Even if I go, “Uhhmm” a lot, or have to pull out a good ol’ English-Spanish dictionary, it’s just one step toward being fluent in a language I can’t get enough of. Especially after hearing it 24/7 the last few days. My first impressions of this entire experience has been absolutely insane, good and bad insane, and I’m waiting for that “Aha!” moment that will make all of this uncomfortableness worth it. I know it hasn’t even been a week, but I have gone through so much. I think this post is for me as much as other people who might be going through the same thing, or who are worried about experiencing this. This emotional turmoil and strangeness may not end, but I have a lot of reasons to keep going and not enough to turn back. I think that’s the same for everyone. In study abroad, in life.
Real deep, Emily. Real deep.
Besos y abrazos,